Over the years the design esthetic I’m working with has come to be known as ‘Steampunk’ by a measurable portion of the intraweb demographic. A concise and accurate definition of this appellation has so far not been forthcoming. Truth be told, I’m generally dead set against the whole over-genrification-of-every-freakin’-thing that world + dog seems to have latched onto. While most common in the electronic music field (Old Skule Neo-progressive Goa Trancewave, anyone?), there’s a burnin’ urge to ‘pigeonhole first, ask questions later’ that seems to have infiltrated every corner of the collective consciousness. FWIW, when applied to what I do, ‘Steampunk’ can be defined as ” randomly selecting medieval, industrial age and art deco influences and gamely struggling to make them all coexist in a post-millennial world.
Out of scrap metal.
I know guys who live and breath Steampunk on purpose. I could quite likely do the same, but it’d close off a bunch of creative back alleys I also like muckin’ about in. From a ‘personal muse’ perspective, I’m actually more of a ‘Pay attention to the Great Cosmic Random’ kinda guy. In my case, the GCR tends to nudge the pieces in a steampunkly direction, but that’s almost to be expected just from a Material Science perspective: Brass, as a fabrication material, has a lot going for it: Easy to work with, readily available, lotsa ‘mechanism friendly’ physical characteristic, shines up all pretty like, yadda yadda. As an added bonus, scrapyards are littered with prefabbed bits and pieces of brass mechtech eagerly awaiting re purposing; no machine shop required. For someone making scratch built mechanisms it’s a no-brainer, really. Wood? same as above. Plus you can find it in back alleys, pre-milled and ready to rock. Yer talkin’ lowest common denominator materials, machine-wise. You can never go wrong with timeless classics of any ilk, and as it happens, *any* vaguely mechanical looking thing rendered in brass and wood automatically receives the official stamp of authenticity from Steampunk World H.Q..
When I manage to convince the materials, the mathematics and the muse to converge properly (which usually involves sacrificing really high quality goats to the Artsy Fartsy Nonsense Gods), the results can actually be kinda breathtaking, but that’s usually the result of lingering fumes from a particularly fragrant adventure in home-brew wood finishing. The process of achieving that goal can become a tad convoluted. Negotiating compromise between form and function is challenging under any circumstances…the fact that I am most inclined to take a ‘less simple’ approach to a mechanism’s components inevitably complicates matters though.
Left to my own devices, I prefer the term ‘machina arcana’- arcane machines-, but providing an actual definition of that term is similarly challenging. As an example of how the Great Cosmic Random can weird out even the simplest of notions, what started out as a series of desktop Siege Engines done as executive and corporate gifts (think ” 13th century catapults” : Trebuchets, Mangonels, Ballistae…I liked the mathematics, OK?) quickly became an open ended re-imagining of the traditional physics of the mechanisms into pieces that made medieval artillery suitable for any home decor while still satisfying the needs of serious weaponry aficionados.
Martha Stewart does ballistics (now that is a frightening thought which is in no way ‘a good thing’)
Similarly, an early commission came from a woman who requested a ‘Ladies’ Bedside Mesmerism Inducer’. As far as I know such a device is not an actual piece of the past in this specific timeline, but given some of the stuff Victorian inventors actually *did* get around to patenting, I could very well be wrong. It is embarrassing to admit however, that I knew exactly what the client was talking about. That initial commission led to the inevitable full sized ‘The Whirling HypnoDisk of The Daughter of Fu Manchu’s Ex-Roommate’ companion piece, which led to the surprisingly popular Hypnodisk product line in a full array of retro, contemporary and futuristic stylings.
70% of which shipped to within a 50 mile radius of Washington DC, which should either come as a shock, or as no real surprise at all.
I get to make the coolest stuff for people., but I think I scare the neighbors.